The legendary Broadway actress and singer Elaine Stritch died recently, in July 2014, at the age of 89. Fortunately, she left us an all-encompassing tale of her life and trials during her 70 year career on Broadway, film and television. “Shoot Me” gives us an intimate look at this brassy, raucous, flashy, funny lady, unafraid to tell the truth about her life and her demons. It is challenging to realize that she was the niece of Samuel Cardinal Stritch, the Archbishop of Chicago in the 40’s and 50’s.
Educated at a convent school in Detroit, Michigan, Elaine headed for the Dramatic Workshop in New York when she was 17 years old to prepare herself for a career on the stage. She made her New York stage debut shortly thereafter in a children’s play, “Bobino.” In 1947, she opened on Broadway in a musical revue, “Angel in the Wings.”
Elaine Stritch- An early photo
The documentary reveals that Elaine Stritch never tried to hide the fact that she was an alcoholic, which derived from the fact that she had low self-confidence in performing on stage. Even to the end of her career, she was fearful of forgetting her lines. It was not until she developed diabetes that she ended her drinking habit and remained sober for 22 years. In her 80’s, Elaine resumed her drinking but limited herself to one drink a day, which she could handle.
While performing in London in the early ‘70’s, she met and married American actor John Bay, whose family owns Bay’s English Muffins. They were happily married for ten years when John developed a cancerous brain tumor and died. Elaine stated that she had never found a love like that again, and never remarried.
Her Broadway, film and television biography is monumental. She was nominated for five Tony Awards and eight prime time Emmys throughout her career. She won her first Tony Award in 2002 for her one-woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty.” Her three winning Emmys came from the HBO television show of “At Liberty” plus a guest-starring role on “Law and Order,” and her role as Alec Baldwin’s mother on “30 Rock.”
Carlyle Hotel, New York City - Where Elaine Stritch lived and worked
For twelve years when she was in her ‘80’s, Elaine Stritch lived at the Carlyle Hotel in New York. There, she created a series of solo cabaret shows which she performed at the Café Carlyle, one of which was a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, whose music she loved. After calling New York City her home for 71 years, she returned to her hometown of Birmingham, Michigan in 2012 to be near to her remaining family.
The documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” is a wonderful legacy which her fans have received, revealing her true character and allowing us to know why her followers love her so much. She adored her audience and they sensed it throughout every performance.